Marshal of the Soviet Union

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Маршал Советского Союза; Russian pronunciation: [ˈmarʂəɫ sɐˈvʲɛtskəvə sɐˈjuzə]) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union.

Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Marshal Sovétskogo Soyuza)
Rank insignia of маршал Советского Союза.svg
Uniform shoulder strap (1955–1990)
Marshal-Star big1.jpg
Country Soviet Union
Service branch Soviet Army
RankGeneral officer
NATO rankOF-10
Formation22 September 1935
AbolishedDecember 1991
Next higher rankNone
Next lower rankChief marshal of the branch
Equivalent ranksAdmiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union
Rank insignias of Marshal of the Soviet Union
Gorget patch
Gorget patch
Sleeve chevron
Shoulder board

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991. Forty-one people held this rank. The equivalent naval rank was until 1955 admiral of the fleet and from 1955 Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union. Both ranks were comparable to NATO rank codes OF-10.

While the supreme rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union, which would have been senior to Marshal of the Soviet Union, was proposed for Joseph Stalin after the Second World War, it was never officially approved.

History of the rankEdit

The first five marshals of the Soviet Union from left to right: Tukhachevsky, Budyonny, Voroshilov, Blyukher, and Yegorov.

The military rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was established by a decree of the Soviet Cabinet, the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom), on 22 September 1935. On 20 November, the rank was conferred on five people: People's Commissar of Defence and veteran Bolshevik Kliment Voroshilov, Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army Alexander Ilyich Yegorov, and three senior commanders, Vasily Blyukher, Semyon Budyonny, and Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Of these, Blyukher, Tukhachevsky, and Yegorov were executed during Stalin's Great Purge of 1937–38. On 7 May 1940, three new Marshals were appointed: the new People's Commissar of Defence, Semyon Timoshenko, Boris Shaposhnikov, and Grigory Kulik.

During World War II, Kulik was demoted for incompetence, and the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was given to a number of military commanders who earned it on merit. These included Georgy Zhukov, Ivan Konev and Konstantin Rokossovsky to name a few. In 1943, Stalin himself was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union, and in 1945, he was joined by his intelligence and police chief Lavrenti Beria. These non-military Marshals were joined in 1947 by politician Nikolai Bulganin.

Two Marshals were executed in postwar purges: Kulik in 1950 and Beria in 1953, following Stalin's death. Thereafter the rank was awarded only to professional soldiers, with the exception of Leonid Brezhnev, who made himself a Marshal in 1976, and Dmitry Ustinov, who was prominent in the arms industry and was appointed Defence Minister in July 1976. The last Marshal of the Soviet Union was Dmitry Yazov, appointed in 1990, who was imprisoned after the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Marshal Sergei Akhromeev committed suicide in 1991 during the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Marshals fell into three generational groups.

  • Those who had gained their reputations during the Russian Civil War. These included both those who were purged in 1937–38 (Blyukher, Tukhachevsky, and Yegorov), and those who held high commands in the early years of World War II (Budyonny, Kulik, Shaposhnikov, Timoshenko and Voroshilov). All of the latter except Shaposhnikov and Timoshenko proved out-of-step with modern warfare and were removed from commanding positions.
  • Those who made their reputations in World War II and assumed high commands in the latter part of the war. These included Zhukov, Vasilievsky, Konev, Rokossovsky, Malinovsky, Tolbukhin, Govorov, Meretskov and Sokolovsky.
  • Those who assumed high command in the Cold War era. All of these were officers in World War II, but their higher commands were held in the Warsaw Pact or as Soviet Defence Ministers. These included Grechko, Yakubovsky, Kulikov, Ogarkov, Akhromeev, and Yazov.

All Marshals in the third category had been officers in World War II, except Brezhnev, who had been a commissar and Ustinov, who had been People's Commissar for Armaments. Even Yazov, who was 20 when the war ended, had been a platoon commander.

The rank was abolished with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. It was succeeded in the new Russia by the rank of Marshal of the Russian Federation, which has been held by only one person, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, who was Russian Defence Minister from 1997 to 2001.

After the death of Marshal Yazov in 2020 there were no living Marshals of the Soviet Union.

Sequence of ranks
lower rank:
General of the army
(Генерал армии)
Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Маршал Советского Союза)
Higher rank:
Chief marshal of the branch
(Главный ма́ршал ро́да во́йск)

List of Marshals of the Soviet UnionEdit

Note: All Marshals of the Soviet Union, with the exception of Non-Military Marshals, had at least started their military careers in the Army. The Service Arms listed are the services they served in during their respective tenures as Marshals of the Soviet Union.

Name Photo Lifespan Promoted Service Arm or Background
Voroshilov, KlimentKliment Voroshilov   1881–1969 Nov 1935 Political
Tukhachevsky, MikhailMikhail Tukhachevsky   1893–1937 Nov 1935 Army
Yegorov, AlexanderAlexander Yegorov   18831025–1939 Nov 1935 Army
Budyonny, SemyonSemyon Budyonny   18830425–1973 Nov 1935 Army
Blyukher, VasilyVasily Blyukher   18901201–1938 Nov 1935 Army
Timoshenko, SemyonSemyon Timoshenko   18951218–1970 May 1940 Army
Kulik, GrigoryGrigory Kulik   18901109–1950 May 1940 Army
Shaposhnikov, BorisBoris Shaposhnikov   1882–1945 May 1940 Army
Zhukov, SergeiGeorgy Zhukov   18961201–1974 Jan 1943 Army
Vasilevsky, AleksandrAleksandr Vasilevsky   18950930–1977 Feb 1943 Army
Stalin, JosephJoseph Stalin[1]   1879–1953 Mar 1943 Political
Konev, IvanIvan Konev   18971228–1973 Feb 1944 Army
Govorov, LeonidLeonid Govorov   18970222–1955 Jun 1944 Army
Rokossovsky, KonstantinKonstantin Rokossovsky[2]   18961220–1968 Jun 1944 Army
Malinovsky, RodionRodion Malinovsky   18981123–1967 Sep 1944 Army
Tolbukhin, FyodorFyodor Tolbukhin   1894–1949 Sep 1944 Army
Meretskov, KirillKirill Meretskov   18970607–1968 Oct 1944 Army
Beria, LavrentiyLavrentiy Beria   1899–1953 Jul 1945 NKVD/MGB
Sokolovsky, VasilyVasily Sokolovsky   18970721–1968 Jul 1946 Army
Bulganin, NikolaiNikolai Bulganin   18950530–1975 Nov 1947 Political
Bagramyan, IvanIvan Bagramyan[3]   18971202–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Biryuzov, SergeySergey Biryuzov   19040821–1964 Mar 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Grechko, AndreiAndrei Grechko   19030117–1976 Mar 1955 Army
Yeremenko, AndreiAndrei Yeremenko   1892–1970 Mar 1955 Army
Moskalenko, KirillKirill Moskalenko   1902–1985 Mar 1955 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Chuikov, VasilyVasily Chuikov   19000212–1982 Mar 1955 Army
Zakharov, MatveiMatvei Zakharov   18980817–1972 May 1959 Army
Golikov, FilippFilipp Golikov   19000629–1980 May 1961 Army
Krylov, Nikolay IvanovichNikolay Krylov   19030429–1972 May 1962 Army/Strategic Rocket Forces
Yakubovsky, IvanIvan Yakubovsky   1912–1976 Apr 1967 Army
Batitsky, PavelPavel Batitsky   1910–1984 Apr 1968 Air Defence
Koshevoy, PyotrPyotr Koshevoy   19041221–1976 Apr 1968 Army
Brezhnev, LeonidLeonid Brezhnev   1906–1982 May 1976 Political
Ustinov, DmitriyDmitriy Ustinov   1908–1984 Jul 1976 Defence Industry
Kulikov, ViktorViktor Kulikov   19211921–2013 Jan 1977 Army
Ogarkov, NikolaiNikolai Ogarkov   19171030–1994 Jan 1977 Army
Sokolov, SergeiSergey Sokolov   1911 1911–2012 Feb 1978 Army
Akhromeyev, SergeiSergey Akhromeyev   19230505–1991 Mar 1983 Army
Kurkotkin, SemyonSemyon Kurkotkin   19170213–1990 Mar 1983 Army
Petrov, Vasily IvanovichVasily Petrov   19170115 1917–2014 Mar 1983 Army
Yazov, DmitryDmitry Yazov   192311081924–2020 Apr 1990 Army

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Joseph Stalin was Generalissimus of the Soviet Union from 1945
  2. ^ Konstantin Rokossovsky was also a Marshal of Poland from 1949
  3. ^ also known as Hovhannes Baghramian

External linksEdit